Sometimes after a defendant makes a guilty plea, the defendant has regrets. Depending on when the defendant wants to withdraw the guilty plea or depending on the conditions under which the guilty plea was made, the defendant may effectively withdraw it.

Prior to Sentencing

The earlier the defendant decides to withdraw his plea in a criminal case, the easier it will actually be for him to withdraw. The rule of thumb is that the defendant can always withdraw his plea if the judge has yet to accept it.

Also, it is potentially possible to withdraw it when the judge is in the sentencing process, but has yet to give her final sentence. In essence, if the judge did not like the plea punishment that the defendant gave and rejected it, the defendant can withdraw his plea then.


When the judge has entered the sentence, it is much more difficult to withdraw the plea. Withdrawal is only possible if there was some interference or unique circumstances that occurred when the defendant made the plea. Some examples of when withdrawal is possible are:

  • Defendant did not intelligibly make the plea due to insanity or being under the influence of narcotics or alcohol.
  • Defendant’s lawyer made the plea without the consent of the defendant.
  • Judge was too heavily involved in the plea negotiation process.
  • Defendant has a viable chance of proving his innocence.
  • Defendant entered the plea due to threats or under duress.
  • Defendant was denied his constitutional rights during trial.
  • There is new evidence.

Incompetent Lawyer

Despite the defendant wanting to blame their lawyer’s for poor case strategy, the lawyer’s incompetence is generally not a valid reason for a judge to withdraw a plea post-sentencing. The only way a lawyer’s incompetence is factored is when the lawyer was ineffective and the reason the plea was entered.

What Happens If Granted a Withdrawal?

When a withdrawal is granted, the trial will continue as if the defendant did not make a guilty plea and the presumption of innocence is reinstated. The trial will continue where it was left off. However, an exception applies where the withdrawal undermines the prosecution; and subsequently, the judge will dismiss the case.

Consulting an Attorney

If you are having second thoughts about your guilty plea or even thinking about pleading guilty, please consult a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer will help you weigh the pros and cons, and if needed, help you plead your case.